Robert Sid Ahmed,
INTERVIEWER: Sorry to interrupt you could I ask you to say briefly in one sort of sentence that the Oggenden was sort of full of ethnic Somalis, belonged to Ethiopia but the Somalis wanted to bring it back into Somalia.
PAUL HENZE : well the Somalis did want to bring the Oggenden back into Somali. They wanted to bring not only the Oggen in but some Somali inhabited parts of Kenya and the area of Djibouti, still a French colony at that point which was occupied, inhabited half by Somalis and half by Affars a related but very different people. The Oggenden however may have oil, people are still looking but the Oggenden has very little in the way of wealth. It is a essentially a desert area, very little agriculture, the Somalis who inhabited it are among the most primitive of the Somalis, they are camel herders and goat herders and so forth. It was never, the Somalis were never particularly oppressed by the Ethiopians in the Oggenden any more than they were oppressed by the Kenyans in northeast Kenya. They were, the Somalis simply led a traditional life. There were efforts by the Ethiopians to develop the area, there was even prospecting by Western oil companies, these efforts were often disrupted because as soon as Somalia developed a strong relationship with the Soviet Union in the 60s guerilla operations mysteriously developed in the Oggenden and this was a very difficult problem for the Soviets, I mean the Ethiopians for a certain period of time. But the Soviets were always, the Soviets were very good at building tension up to a certain temperature and then seeing that it never really boiled over and Seatbaray, Somalis is always, all of one religion, all of one language all of one ethnic orientation, is nevertheless deeply divided by clans. The clan differences in Somalia are far stronger than I believe they are in any other part of Africa. There, there are more serious problems certainly than ethnic differences in Ethiopia which is a multi-ethic country and Seatbaray came from a rather minor Somali clan. He had a great deal of difficulty and in this sense he was there is a certain parallel as there was with Menghistu, he came from the edges of Society, he had to prove himself by being an ultra-nationalist, and part of this being an ultra-nationalist was claiming that he was uniting all Somalis and protecting all Somalis from exploitation by the odious Ethiopians the colonial Kenyans and the colonial French and so forth.
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PAUL HENZE: Well I would be perfectly willing to give you some personal reminiscences too as I found myself plunged into all of this when I came back from Turkey in January 1977 and joined the National Security Council and was immediately given this area as part of my responsibility.
INTERVIEWER: Well that would be great actually, I don't quite know what to ask you I don't quite know what your personal, that's why when I once called you I was quite interested to find out what that was about.....
[chat re national airport, planes and stomach bugs]
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me what led the Somalis to believe that the US would support their conquest of the Oggaden
PAUL HENZE: The Somalis, the permanent undersecretary of the Kenyan foreign ministry I remember in the fall of 1977, when I made a grand tour of the area for the US National Security Council to get a feel for what was really going on. The permanent secretary Jeremiah Couraney said to me and my colleagues "There is one thing you must remember, the Somalis are the most deceptive people in the world." But he added that they also have great capacity in their own ability to manipulate and maneuver. And this is what I don't think the Somalis had any good reason to believe that the US would support them but they were determined to try to get the US to support them. And they enlisted every possible resource that they could find. They sent people into the White House, they engaged in propaganda from many different angles, they took a very daring step by invading Ethiopia in the first place because we still don't know, we've managed to get a lot of documents out of Moscow in recentyears, but the Russians have been very careful they've kept the documents that really give information on the basic decisions out of Western ads. I worked on a lot of these documents a couple of years ago. We don't know if the Russians actually told the Sgo ahead and invade. The Somalian invasion of Ethiopia built up over a period of about six months and eventually it reached very major proportions. The Somalis claimed they didn't have any regular troops they had the whole Somali army, they had tanks, they had their airforce they had the best equipment they got from the Soviets. They've they went deep into Ethiopia, they sent the Ethiopians reeling. The Ethiopian air force defeated the Somali air force and that was very significant, but the Somalis still gave the Ethiopians a very rough time. They practically brought Ethiopia to its knees. In the process of course they alarmed the world, they alarmed the Soviets. We do know that from documents that have now come to light. The soviets didn't really know what to do. They wanted to keep, they wanted to have a hold on both countries. They hoped by daring maneuvers to be able to bring both into the Soviet camp. In the end of course they lost them both, but the Soviet response after considerable confusion was to call in the Cubans. And they were very reluctant to break relations with the Somalis, there were still 4,000 soviet advisors in Somalia at the time that the Somalis had practically brought the Ethiopians to their knees. When the Soviet shifted their position, many Russians left Somalia and came right over to Ethiopia. The same was true of Cubans. There were large number of Cubans in Somalia. But many more of course were brought in a total of 15, 18,000 Cubans were brought in by mostly airlifts some by ship, some from Angola, many directly from Cuba. Many by way of South Yemen, South Yemenis were brought in to stem the Somali advance at the most crucial point when there was nobody else available to do it, because parts of the Ethiopian military practically collapsed.
INTERVIEWER: I'll just ask it very briefly again
INTERVIEWER: All I would really like is a very succinct, a very succinct statement about why the Somalis believed..
PAUL HENZE: Well they never really believed it, ...
..... The Somalis never believed they could really persuade the US, but they took a long chance. The whole Somali actions during the 1977, 78 period were based on long chances, great risks in the hope that they might succeed. They had very little chance of getting American full support. But they knew that if they tried to present themselves as anti-Soviet they would improve their chances and so they went to considerable lengths to appear to be anti-Soviet at the same time however the Soviet Union was not very co-operative of them because the Soviets in the fall of 1977 clearly opted for Ethiopia over Somalia which shouldn't surprise anybody because Ethiopia was a far greater prize, but the Soviets withdrew from Somalia without breaking diplomatic relations, maintained an embassy, maintained some people in Somalia even though and while they transferred people directly this was not sufficiently offensive to the Somalis that they took action against them. And the Somalis kept playing the old game during this whole period of saying well now if you Americans don't support us we'll go back to Moscow. Well it was pretty clear that they couldn't go back to Moscow that the die was cast but they played the game. They got nowhere.
INTERVIEWER: Could one say that it was a case of the sort of pliant state bringing in the superpowers to try and meet its own aims?
PAUL HENZE: Oh very much so, certainly in the Somalian case. In the Ethiopian case, the Ethiopians were caught by the Somali invasion, in effect Menghistu invited the Somali invasion, not because he wanted it, but because he had reduced the Ethiopians to such a state of internal confusion that the Somalians were led to believe that if they just go in there and gave a few further whacks they could bring the regime down. I remember talking to Seatbaray during that period and Seatbaray in the fall of 1977 maintained that the Menghistu regime was so weak that it couldn't possibly survive and therefore Somalia was doing humanity a service by destroying the regime, now that was not true at all actually. Menghistu was clever enough to pull the same, apply the same kind of policy that Stalin applied in 1941, 42 when the Germans invaded, Stalin suddenly liberalized, he let the church come back and be active he let Russians have much more freedom. He became more a great advocate of Russian patriotism, Menghistu did the same thing, Menghistu relaxed many of the most odious communist measures in 1977 and therefore rallied the country around him.
INTERVIEWER: May I just ask you to go back and make a succinct statement for me about the sort of client state bringing in what you know the superpowers, to meet their opportunistically to meet their own local needs.
PAUL HENZE: Well the Somalians I think, the Somalis I think are very much a Soviet client state, a very faithful client state. At the same time it gave the Soviets almost nothing in return they wanted military aid from the Soviets, they wanted the Soviets to support their positions entirely, the Soviets probably brought part of that on themselves by their own deceptive tactics, leading the Somalis on to believe that they would support them and then not supporting them fully. No I mean they tried some of the same with the Ethiopians afterwards, but after 1978 the situation was pretty much settled. The soviets had opted for the Ethiopians they had brought in sufficient forces to defeat the Somalis. The Somalis were defeated but at the same time not entirely rendered powerless.
INTERVIEWER: Fine can you just describe to me the sort of Cuban airlifting in of Cuban troops can you tell me how the arrival of the Cubans was seen in Washington, what fears it aroused, were they seen as Soviet proxies.
PAUL HENZE: Oh Cubans were seen entirely as Soviet proxies in Washington. Washington at that point stood somewhat in awe of the Soviet ability to use the Cubans, because the Soviets had encouraged the Cubans to be adventuresome. The Cubans had already given evidence of stoking revolutionary situations in Africa and elsewhere in Africa, after all Che Guevara had been in the Congo before he was in Bolivia and there was very little basis for understanding any limitations as far as the Cubans were concerned. The Cubans in many ways from the Washington point of view looked like ideal mercenaries, the men the soviets could use for any purpose they chose. Now whether the Cubans were entirely amenable or not it was hard to say. We've learned something from documents since. There is a fascinating conversation in Ethiopia between the Soviet ambassador and one of the chief lieutenants of Menghistu about August of 1977 where the Ethiopians had been bickering privately with the Cubans about additional aid, they wanted more technicians they wanted more military assistance and so forth. The Soviet ambassador said in very sharp terms to the Ethiopians, " The decision of how many Cubans will come and what Cuba will do here is going to be made in Moscow, not in Havana".
INTERVIEWER: Very good, can you tell me just moving right on, can you how would you characterize president Carter's handling of the Horn?
PAUL HENZE : The Horn was president Carter's first crisis. He was taken aback by it. president Carter came in with a somewhat benign view of the world, he felt that if you just demonstrated good will you'd get people to co-operate and the Horn therefore was a great shock. It was so much of a shock at times that I think there was a danger that president Carter might have gone so far as to break relations with Ethiopia. And those of us including myself who were concerned about the longer range implications worked very hard to see that we didn't break relations with Ethiopia, because we felt that as odious as Menghistu might be that if once we broke relations it would be very dito restore them and I think that that has proved to be very much the case in other situations in the world. If you break relations it takes year and years and years to get them back, while if you maintain them even under very difficult conditions and at one point our embassy was reduced to a handful of peoplin Adis Ababa, but we maintained the embassy and when the Ethiopians wanted to have American military aid supplied at the end of 1977 beginning of 1978 they agreed to accept an American ambassador again and to lift some of the limitations on the American presence in Ethiopia. This gave us an opportunity to put a foot back in the door, because behind the American position on Ethiopia those of us who knew Ethiopia well knew that Ethiopia was always really very pro-American, the great majority of Ethiopians were pro-American, almost the entire educated classes in Ethiopia had been educated in the United States or in Britain or in Europe. They were all oriented towards the West. Only during the entire Soviet period the only Ethiopians who went to the East for education were those who couldn't get a decent opportunity to go somewhere in the West.